Boyd Rankin: I've had an amazing journey from Bready to ashes in Brisbane
It's less than two days to go to the start of another Ashes series and it is still pretty surreal that I'm in Brisbane, not only as part of the England squad about to take on Australia, but with a chance of playing.
I've always pushed myself to be the best I can be at whatever level I was playing at, always wanting to improve and get better.
But when I was playing at Bready (pictured right), or even under-age cricket with the Ireland squads, I never even thought about playing cricket full time.
I didn't see it as an option until, probably, the summer of 2006 when I was working with (former Ireland coach and England pace bowler) Mike Hendrick at Derbyshire.
It was getting involved with the Ireland squad for the World Cup the following year and playing in the West Indies that really convinced me I could make it. I took 12 wickets, was Ireland's leading wicket-taker and it kicked off from there.
That was also the time I started thinking about playing for England.
Irish player Ed Joyce had given it a go, Eoin Morgan was about to follow him and since then it has been my ambition to play Test cricket.
Ireland couldn't offer me that so I had to make the break and I played my last match in Sri Lanka at last year's World Twenty20.
I got my first call-up for England in the summer, was involved in the Twenty20s and one-day internationals and then with the Ashes squad before this summer's series.
When I received the call from Geoff Miller (England chairman of selectors) to tell me I was on the plane to Australia I was pretty emotional, speechless actually, but just really pleased.
I think I said 'I was over the moon' at the time.
Since arriving in Australia it's been great. The people, no matter what you may have heard, have been really friendly, though it is a different way of life from home.
The weather has been up and down, from 35 degrees in Perth to 10 degrees in Hobart.
My overall assessment is that it's a great country to tour.
I knew a lot of the squad before joining up through playing county cricket and that's made it easier. Everyone has made me feel very welcome and I have settled in really well.
My bowling was rusty in the first Tour game in Perth, but then I hadn't bowled for about four weeks before that.
It was nice to get a few overs under my belt and the more I bowled in Sydney recently the better I got, taking four wickets. Hopefully I showed what I can do.
I feel I've done as much as I could, but even if I don't start the first Test, there'll be opportunities down the line if I keep working hard.
There's a lot more bounce out here, so that suits me, although first up was not a typical Perth pitch.
It's important to use the new ball in the first 20 overs and get swing and lift early on.
After that it's pretty flat and you have to build pressure to take wickets.
Bowling coach David Saker is similar to my coach at Warwickshire, Graeme Welch. He's pretty chilled out and laid back. He doesn't work too much on teaching us things as we are at that level when it's more to do with working out batsmen and he's pretty good with plans and giving tips on lengths to bowl.
The biggest difference on tour is the number of support staff with us. There's a psychologist with us up until the first Test, the players would use him most getting their game ready on the mental side of things.
Then there's a physio, doctor, masseuse, plus fielding, batting and bowling coaches, manager, security, there's even a spin bowling coach and media manager, so all bases are covered. There's always somebody there to turn to.
There was a big fuss made in the media about what the guys were eating out here but the food is really good.
We are given guidelines to what you can eat, pasta and meat. But it's all good stuff for sportsmen. It was really blown out of proportion about being told what to eat.
Now we are all focused on the first Test here in Brisbane.
It was nice to get a win in the last warm-up game in Sydney and there's good competition for places.
That keeps everyone working hard and doing the best they can.
My aim hasn't changed. I'll keep pushing for selection – the squad for the Test match will probably be named on Wednesday – and to do the best I can to help the team to win an Ashes series for a fourth consecutive time.